Amazingly, Percy was alive. His body was stiff, with a few burns causing pain running through his veins like wildfire. The water had healed the rest of him, thank the gods. He had been in so much pain... what had happened? Were the others alive? His heart raced as he struggled into a sitting position, ignoring the dizziness and sharp pains darting through his stomach. His dry, cracked lips formed words, one word, a name. Annabeth. He brought his feet up, knees brushing his chest, blinking away tears. She's gone, he told himself furiously. She's gone and there's nothing you can do about it!
"Why did you do this too me?" Percy screamed, not at the sky but at the ground, where Gaia now slept once more, and hopefully forever. He was sitting on golden sand, the grains soft under his hands, the water lapping over his dry ankles. Maybe that was what was keeping him from dying of sorrow. Maybe his father was keeping him stable. Maybe it had all been a dream. Maybe... Maybe Annabeth wasn't dead. "Shut up!" He shouted at the voices in his head, although he knew it was his own thoughts. He was seeing the impossible. Through a blurry vision, he could see a wide stretch of beach and a city looming behind him, shadowed because of the rising sun. He instantly knew where he was: Los Angeles. How did he get there? He did not care. The sky was blue, the day was warm and everyone who walked around him was chattering happily.
Percy found it ironic.
"Excuse me, young boy." a dry, familiar voice cut through his sobbing. He looked up, swallowing to make his throat and mouth wet. Everything inside of him felt as dry as sandpaper. The man who stood before him was a fisherman, a hat threw over his head and a Hawaii shirt unbuttoned at the top. Percy sniffed and watched as he set down his fishing rod and crouched down. "Why so sad?"
"I'm sorry; I don't speak to strangers." Percy made to stand, until a soft breeze blew over him. The man's hat flew off, revealing sea-green eyes, a friendly smile and a neatly-trimmed black beard. "D-d-d-dad?" Percy stuttered, his bottom lip trembling. His father smiled back at him, as wide and as bright as the sun. His rod shimmered and transformed into a gleaming, beautiful trident. Without thinking, Percy threw himself forward, into Poseidon's arms, and wept. He wept for Annabeth, and for his dead friends, and for the destruction of both camps he had loved, and for the huge hole in his heart. He wept for everything, whilst the only person he had left stroked his back soothingly. Quickly, he made a mental checklist of who had dies in his head: Annabeth, his mom, Hazel, Reyna and Nico. All of them had died saving something. His mom and Annabeth tried to save him. Reyna and Nico tried to save the Athena Parthenos. Hazel tried to save Frank and Leo.
"Would you call me a stranger?" Poseidon asked suddenly. Percy drew himself back, eyes puffy from crying, and shook his head, trying for a smile. None came. "Percy, I'm so sorry for your loss. We have both lost the people we loved."
"Love." Percy corrected automatically. "Even though they are gone, we still love them. We always will."
"You are right." His father sighed, but then a smile crept across his face, despite everything. He quickly tried to hide it, but Percy had shoved his shoulders, disbelieving.
"What's so funny?" He yelled, trying to stand, but white-hot pain raced through him and he choked back a scream. Poseidon licked his lips, but stood and took up his trident. "Where are you going? You-you can't just leave me! Dad!"
"Percy, hush." Poseidon smiled again and stepped backwards into the water. The blueness of it swirled around him, a whirlpool of milky liquid. "Not everything is lost. The Gods have granted you one wish, but you don't need to tell them. We already know." He ducked under the water, and then he vanished completely. Percy sat staring at the place he had disappeared in horror. No goodbye? No good luck? No explanation? How would the gods know what he wanted?
"What do you mean?" Percy shouted at the ocean, half-hoping his father would appear and say: "Sorry, Percy, just kidding! Us Gods like to fool mortals, and demigods." But he didn't appear. Disappointed and depressed, Percy shuffled onto his stomach and pressed his palms against the sand, trying to haul himself up. A wave of nausea took over him, and he gagged. After five minutes of trying to climb onto his knees, he was sweaty and had actually threw up into the water. Some fish nearby had complained, but he had told them to go away. It was midday when he had finally managed to stand, after a lot of pain and dizziness. He limped his way along the ocean, his bare feet numb, and didn't stop to rest until he was too tired to continue. His legs buckled, collapsing beneath him, and he couldn't help but cry again. He was homeless. Friendless. Jason, Leo, Frank and Piper had been blown somewhere else when Gaia had fell through the Earth, into a deep sleep. He hoped, really hoped, they were ok.
The sudden sound of breaking glass tore him back to the real world. He looked around, blinking, but he couldn't see anything. Maybe it was the sound of my breaking heart, Percy thought miserably. But the sound came again, and again, and again. It echoed and echoes until the sillhoute of a woman- it was too slight to be a man- emerged from the light of the sun's rays themselves and walked towards him. He went cold, and then warm. For a moment, perhaps a split second, he thought it was Aphrodite with her untamed beauty and calm walk, but as she neared he noticed the storm that raged in her eyes and the curliness of her Cinderella hair. She wore a torn orange shirt, blue denim shorts and a tusk was held in her right hand. His heart contracted at the sight of her, and he felt himself rising, painfully, slowly. Desperately. For a couple of agonizing seconds, he could only stare as she approached him, blonde hair blowing in the breeze and blood trickling down her arms. His arms ached for them to go around her, his body ached for hers against his, and his lips ached for her lips.
Annabeth dropped her tusk into the sand and quickened her pace. Her fast-walk became a jog, and the jog became a sprint. He found himself moving forwards, too, his arms reaching for her, his body driving forwards for hers, and his lips crashing against hers once they collided. Her hands wound through his hair, her body fitting perfectly against his, her lips wetting his. He melted into her, forgetting himself, forgetting the war, forgetting the pain of loss and burns.
It seemed like hours had passed until she finally pulled away, her eyes puffy from crying and the blood on her smudged. She smiled, and he smiled back. "Let's go home." She whispered, her voice silky soft. He nodded, forgetting his words. Playfully, she punched his arm. "Seaweed Brain."
He punched her arm in return. "Wise Girl."
"... I can't think of one..." He fumbled around for an insulting name, but it was too hard. He could never insult Annabeth. "I love you." He said instead.
"I love you too." Annabeth replied, and kissed him again.
That night at camp there was a huge party for Greeks, Romans, Monsters, Gods and pretty much everything you could think of in Greek mythology that was on the good side. Percy and Annabeth never left each other's sides, except for one time moving two inches away to embrace Jason, Frank, Leo and Piper who had returned a day before. Chiron placed Laurels on their heads and announced them as heroes; as their own Gods! Percy grinned, his heart thumping with honour, and made a huge speech about the bravery of his friends and his camp. He thanked the Romans for siding with them in the end, and the good monsters for assisting them. They sacrificed to the Gods, and Percy threw in his whole dinner to thank them for bringing Annabeth back to him. He saved a slice of pizza, which was to represent his mom.
"I will never forget you." His voice cracked as he stared at the fire. "I love you."
Annabeth slipped her hand into his, gave him a reassuring smile and kissed his cheek. "She's always with us, Percy."
"I know." He replied, a little too gloomily. "I just wish-"
"No more wishing." Annabeth told him sternly. "We don't need anything else. We have each other, and that is all we need. Okay?"
Percy nodded, grateful that Annabeth had been brought into his life. He kissed her, slow and steady, until the music started and campers were shouting in excitement. Jason and Piper grabbed Percy and Annabeth, dragging them onto the dance floor, and they started dancing. Annabeth looked at him, and he remembered when they had first danced, in Westover Hall. He had tripped up over her feet, had messed up completely. He didn't care now. She loved him. She loved him for who he was. He loved her.
All night the music played, and all night they danced and sang and played party games. Near midnight, Percy was walking through the woods when something white shimmered out of the corner of his eye. He whirled, only to come face-to-face with Luke Castellan. Luke smiled kindly at him, though his skin was transparent. Next to him shimmered Ethan Nakamura, and then Bianca Di Angelo, and then Zoe Nightshade, Reyna, Hazel, Nico and his mom. They all smiled and congratulated him. Tears rolled down his cheeks, but he managed to thank them all and stare at them.
"We were always there, Percy." Luke told me. "We always watched out for you."
"You're the best boy I have ever known." Zoe nodded respectfully at me.
"I love you, Percy." Nico blurted, but Percy didn't feel his cheeks flame. He didn't feel anything about it, only affection towards the boy who had been like his little brother for years.
"You have my blessing." His mom whispered, and stroked his cheek with her cold, ghostly hand. He could smell the cookies on her, and the scent of their old apartment. "Go back to Annabeth. And remember, Percy, that no matter how dangerous the situation, no matter how close you are to death, we will always, always be here." She touched the place where his heart was, and then dissolved into the air.
I found myself sitting on the beach with Annabeth, holding hands and looking out across the water. It was dark, but calm and peaceful. He had never seen it like that. Behind them, the flames rose high and the wisp of smoke coiled like a snake in the air. Cheers and music was the only thing to be heard, except for the gentle lapping of the water. It was his home. It was their home.
He had enjoyed every minute of it.